Game: Peachtree Academy (6-3) at Unity Christian (10-0)
Last meeting: Unity 62, Peachtree 30 (Aug. 23, 2019)
All-time series: Peachtree leads 3-2
On the web: For score updates throughout Friday’s games, visit RN-T.com.
A region title and undefeated season has brought Unity Christian two wins away from a state championship.
The first one will be contested by a familiar foe as Peachtree Academy arrives in town Friday night after losing to the Lions in Week 2. But Unity Christian head coach Mark Ackerman knows there will be new threats when they take the field for round two.
Peachtree Academy, the defending GAPPS Class AA state champions, was without their top lineman and linebacker when Unity Christian won their last meeting 62-30 on Aug. 23. Both players, who were out with injuries, will be able to play Friday night during the semifinal showdown at Shorter University’s Ben Brady Field.
“They are a better team than they were when we played them the first time,” Ackerman said. “Now, I would suggest that we’ve gotten better as well, but I think our kids can’t go in thinking that we’re going to blow them out by 30 when they’ve got two of their best players back. I think our boys understand that, but they are also excited about the opportunity to play this game here and possibly advance to the state championship for the first time.”
Peachtree Academy entered the playoffs as the No. 2 seed from Region 2 and defeated Horizon Christian Academy 68-0 in the quarterfinals.
Unity Christian came into this season with a renewed energy as junior Drew King returned behind center and the young squad doubled down on their commitment and focus, according to Ackerman.
“What we’ve seen over the last couple of years is this group of guys growing together and really pushing each other,” he said. “When you get a team that puts a run together, those players usually have a close-knit bond and are willing to challenge each other. They want to help each other. And we’ve had that from this group.”
With mostly sophomores and juniors, Unity has been able to outscore its opponents 470-136 and found leadership and experience after players have been in the system from middle school up.
Ackerman confesses Peachtree Academy has a size advantage over the Lions, but they have been doing well at moving the ball in space.
“It’s a rarity that a team has four good cover guys, so we usually have one guy open running free somewhere, and Drew has done a really good job of finding that open guy,” Ackerman said.
King led the Lions’ offense against Peachtree in the teams’ first meeting this season, running for 239 yards and three touchdowns and going 14-of-21 passing for 166 yards and two touchdowns.
“They’re physical, and we want to spread them out,” Ackerman said. “We really can’t get into a power game with them. We want to make them run side-to-side and hit them over the top. That’s our goal.”
A Unity victory would mean the Lions get to host the Class AA state championship game next Friday against the winner of Rock Springs Christian and Johnson Ferry Christian.
— Jeremy Stewart